Students preparing for new semester during pandemic

Photo via CKHA. April 9, 2020.

Just as children are getting ready to start school again, whether in-person or virtually, post-secondary students are also preparing for the fall semester at St. Clair College.

During a media conference on Wednesday, college officials said there will be fewer students on campus than usual and there will be strict health protocols. However, students will not be sharing the campus with a field hospital for long. The HealthPlex was approved to be the location of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance’s field hospital in the spring but it will be removed by the end of September.

Associate Vice President of Student Services and College Registrar Michael Silvaggi said students will be on campus for labs and shop classes, but staggered start and finish times have been implemented and the use of face masks will be mandatory.

“The vast majority of our programming has been moved to an online format. Students that are coming on campus that are participating in these face-to-face labs are required to answer a COVID questionnaire and do require clearance on a daily basis in order to access the campus,” he said.

Post-secondary students going to campus will notice designated entrances and exits as well as security.

“We have some strict guidelines. We even have some COVID ambassadors walking the halls to ensure that any individuals that are on campus are not congregating, that students are wearing their mask, and so forth,” he said.

Silvaggi said tuition fees will remain frozen at the level they were last year, as mandated by the Ministry of Education. Although the majority of learning at the post-secondary level will be held virtually, enrollment has remained “flat” with no growth.

Silvaggi notes any changes in enrollment will be more noticeable among international students at both the Chatham and Windsor campuses.

“The number of international students travelling to the region will be extremely small,” he said. “Most students, if not the vast majority, will be able to study from their home country. Our delivery has changed to an asynchronous format where it’s deemed fit.”

Silvaggio said the only international students eligible to travel would have needed to obtain an approved study visa prior to March 18. As per federal regulations, anyone entering the country — including international students — will have to quarantine for 14 days. However, before travelling they need to provide proof of where they will stay quarantined.

The protocol for young international students is a little different. Lambton-Kent District School Board Director of Education John Howitt said any travelling students will quarantine before arriving to stay with their host family.

“We contract with the Homestay group and Homestay has arranged for a spot, not too far from [Toronto Pearson International Airport] where all of the international students who have a study visa before March 18, quarantine before coming to the families,” said Howitt.

Both Howitt and Deb Crawford, director of education for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, said there has not been a last-minute surge in the number of students choosing to switch from in-person to at-home learning. However, Howitt said a waitlist remains open.